Personality and individual differences originate from the brain. Despite major advances in the affective and cognitive neurosciences, however, it is still not well understood how personality and single personality traits are represented within the brain. Most research on brain-personality correlates has focused either on morphological aspects of the brain such as increases or decreases in local gray matter volume, or has investigated how personality traits can account for individual differences in activation differences in various tasks. Here, we propose that personality neuroscience can be advanced by adding a network perspective on brain structure and function, an endeavor that we label personality network neuroscience.
With the rise of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the establishment of connectomics as a theoretical framework for structural and functional connectivity modeling, and recent advancements in the application of mathematical graph theory to brain connectivity data, several new tools and techniques are readily available to be applied in personality neuroscience. The present contribution introduces these concepts, reviews recent progress in their application to the study of individual differences, and explores their potential to advance our understanding of the neural implementation of personality.
Trait theorists have long argued that personality traits are biophysical entities that are not mere abstractions of and metaphors for human behavior. Traits are thought to actually exist in the brain, presumably in the form of conceptual nervous systems. A conceptual nervous system refers to the attempt to describe parts of the central nervous system in functional terms with relevance to psychology and behavior. We contend that personality network neuroscience can characterize these conceptual nervous systems on a functional and anatomical level and has the potential do link dispositional neural correlates to actual behavior.